Some Tips for Safe Holiday Decorating
Christmas should be a time of joy and happiness, but each year many end up in hospital emergency rooms with injuries related to holiday lights, decorations, and Christmas trees.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports nearly 12,500 people are treated each year for injuries such as fall from ladders while putting up lights and decorations or electric shocks from the lights or wiring. Some of these result in deaths (about 150 per year).
Christmas trees, while lovely, contribute to about 300 fires annually. Many of these fires result in deaths and personal injury, as well as millions in property loss.
Take a few minutes to review some tips to protect yourself and your family from such holiday related injuries.
Start with the tree.
If you use an artificial tree, it should be “fire resistant” which means it will resist burning and will be easier to extinguish quickly. If you plan to use lights, do not get a metallic tree as it can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch can be electrocuted.
If you use a live tree, be sure to check it for freshness when you purchase it. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
Regardless of artificial or fresh, the tree should be placed away from fireplaces and radiators. Remember heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, so be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
Next the Lights:
Both indoor and outdoor lights should meet CPSC safety standards. Before putting the lights up, they should be checked for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. This applies to new lights as well as the old ones. Be sure to throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
No more than three standard-size sets of lights should be used per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
Only use lights certified for outdoor use outside. Keep the lights away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes. Outdoor lights should be fastened securely using insulated staples, not nails or tacks.
Both indoor and outdoor holiday lights should be turned off before going to bed or leaving the house unattended. Lights may short out and start fires.
Make sure the ladder is stable when climbing up and down to place the lights. Falls result in many injuries each year.
It is important to use non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Read the labels and make sure your tinsel and artificial icicles are made of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
Don’t ever use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Place the candle in a non-flammable holders in a place where they will not be knocked down. According to the CPSC, candles start about 11,600 fires each year, resulting in 150 deaths, 1,200 injuries and $173 million in property loss.
Be aware of small children and decorations or ornaments that are sharp or breakable. Children can swallow or inhale small pieces.
Artificial snow should be used carefully according to the directions on the container. If inhaled, artificial snow can be irritating to the lungs.
For more information on holiday decorating safety tips visit the CPSC's web site: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/611.html